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GNWT to offer promotion program for online campsite bookings as campgrounds prepare to open

Despite heavy rainfalls for the majority of June, Prelude Lake Territorial Park campsite was completely booked over the long weekend. Dylan Short/NNSL photo

The territorial government is offering a camping promotion program to encourage NWT residents to use the online campsite reservation system which opens on Wednesday, before campgrounds open on Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m.

Residents will receive an extra night of camping if they book a campsite for five nights. The openings come as the GNWT is expected to enter phase two of its Emerging Wisely Covid-19 recovery plan by this weekend.

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The plan states that in phase two, campgrounds are open to controlled numbers of people based on space, capacity and time; controlled access by a ticketing system and limited access for overnight and drive-in areas.

The Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI) announced the booking system start in a news release just hours after ITI Minister Katrina Nokleby spoke about campground reservations in the legislative assembly.

"Reservations for all NWT campsites except for Yellowknife’s Fred Henne Park will open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday June 10, 2020. Reservations for the Fred Henne campground will open at 10 a.m. on Thursday June 11, 2020," ITI said.

Lesa Semmler, Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA, told the assembly that there will be some "happy campers" this weekend when NWT residents can finally enjoy campgrounds after Covid restrictions delayed their opening.

She asked Nokleby if campground entry fees could be waived on the occasion of the parks opening and because residents are encouraged to do "staycations" instead of travelling outside the territory.

Nokleby responded that any decision on waiving fees would be up to the financial management board but that the GNWT was offering a "'buy five nights get the sixth night free' coupon," and "promoting and giving an extra night free for the next time that people book on the system. We’ll (also) look at how we can accommodate lower income residents in order to enjoy the parks. Perhaps we can work with NGOs to identify families that would like to go camping."

Semmler also asked Nokleby if residents can enter campgrounds on the weekend without using the online registration system.

Nokleby acknowledged that not everyone likes using the online system and that some people in the Inuvik region haven't been using it.

"Your park won't be closed this weekend just because the online system might not be used properly," she said. "The gatehouse at Inuvik parks will be manned this weekend and they’ll take cash."

The minister added that she would work on a release specific to the Inuvik and Beaufort-Delta region with information regarding the differences with the online system.

If the start of phase two of Emerging Wisely is delayed or cancelled, all bookings that can't be made would be refunded, ITI said.